April 22--A restroom area at Detroit Metropolitan Airport now accommodates four-legged flyers.
Two lush-looking patches of grass, complete with sprinkler system, were presented Tuesday behind a partition near gate A34 in the McNamara Terminal. A small crowd watched as two happy dogs tested out the "Service Animal Relief Area."
Marguerite Maddox, 58, of Detroit said it will save a half-hour not having to take her black Lab named Jello outside through security screening to get relief.
"To have her inside is a blessing for us," Maddox said while smiling down at Jello, who helps her with hearing disabilities.
The relief area is free and offers a sink for filling water bottles and washing hands, as well as squares of both fake and real grass large enough to accommodate one or two dogs at a time.
"You've gone from backpacking to staying at the Ritz Carlton," said Delta Airlines facilities manager John Garbacik.
The $75,000 addition, which connects to the same sanitation system as the humans' restrooms, is intended for passengers' convenience as well as to make work a little easier for the people who clean up accidents. It also helps avoid people slipping and falling on dog waste, Garbacik said.
The service-animal relief area is only at the McNamara Terminal, as its volume of connecting flights makes it more appropriate than the North Terminal, where people are just departing and arriving, said airport spokesman Michael Conway.
Michigan-based Paws With a Cause made suggestions on the relief area's accommodations. Deb Davis, community outreach manager with the organization, gave a demonstration with Cricket, a golden retriever on Tuesday morning.
Cricket was able to hit the rectangular target of grass as well as push a large button activating sprinklers, which rinse the liquid waste to drains below the grass. Bags are available separately for solid waste. Davis said it took some training for Cricket to understand she wouldn't be in trouble for relieving herself indoors, but that she caught on quickly.
"It's a wonderful convenience for our dogs, especially our service dogs," she said, "because they're an extension of our bodies."
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